In this space just about this time last year, I went out on a limb and predicted that November's mayoral election would be one of the hardest fought in recent history, that it would be decided along urban-versus-suburban lines and that the early favourite would finish back in the pack.
To a lot of folks, this seemed like absolute nonsense. Barbara Hall was lounging around with more than 50 per cent support in public opinion polls.
It's nice to be right once in a while, but now some people expect me to accurately fill them in on what's going to happen in 2004. The pressure is intense, and the situation is made worse by the fact that the cat knocked my crystal ball off the top of the liquor cabinet and the LCBO (League of Clairvoyants and Bookmaking Operators) no longer stocks the model I found so dependable 12 months ago.
Sure, the updated version looks real smart, but it doesn't seem to bring things into the same sharp focus that the old model was renowned for. Or maybe I just haven't quite figured out how to interpret the messages it's been relaying to me.
For example, when I whispered Hall's name into the input module, I expected the device to respond with something about the provincial Liberals providing her with a six-figure salary to chair the Ontario Municipal Board or some other government agency in 2004. But what I got was something about the two-time loser setting up a committee that will spend $107,000 to figure out what a mayor should look like.
As we found out during the recent election campaign, Babs didn't think a mayor should look like David Miller. And one day a mayor probably won't.
Also according to this prognosticating gizmo:
· John Nunziata, the ex-MP who finished back of Hall in the mayoral race, will open a homeless shelter to be called the Compassion House B&B. His buddy Dennis Mills will find work there as well after he retires come spring as the Liberal MP for Toronto-Danforth rather than go down to defeat at the hands of federal NDP leader Jack Layton.
· Former councillor and budget chief Tom Jakobek, who finished just ahead of all the other fringe candidates on the mayoral ballot, and former computer salesman Dash Domi will become partners in a tour agency specializing in private jet excursions to out-of-town NHL playoff games. The company's motto: "Travel with confidence that no one will ever know you were there."
· John Tory will capitalize on what he learned running for mayor to found a new federal political organization called the Tory Party. The Conservative Party of Canada will sue for copyright infringement and lose. Scott Brison will be moved to quit the Liberals and cross the House to sit as Scott Brison-Tory until official party status is granted.
· Robert Deluce will give up on his plans to operate a regional airline out of the Toronto Island Airport and open a model airplane store on Queens Quay. Upon hearing the news, Mayor Miller will respond: "Maybe now Bob will find something constructive to do with all the airplane glue he was sniffing while threatening to sue for killing the bridge across the Western Gap."
· Without an expanded Island Airport to administer, the Toronto Port Authority will be disbanded by the federal government. Chair Henry Pankratz and CEO Lisa Raitt will use their acquired waterfront knowledge to open a paddleboat and paintball operation a few piers down from Deluce's hobby shop. Former councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, who liked nothing better than to parade around City Hall in his honourary navy whites, will accept a job as chief ticket-taker on condition everybody refers to him as Admiral K-K.
· Increasingly disturbed that they've lost their roles as power brokers in the disgraced Lastman administration, councillors Case Ootes (ex-deputy mayor), David Shiner (ex-budget chief) and Denzil Minnan-Wong (ex-economic development czar) will portray themselves as political superheroes the Ex-Men. An alliance of right-wing alpha males, they'll ensure that their conservative cause attains comic book status.
· Upset that he lost all the travel plums that went with his Lastman-assigned post as chair of the Toronto Zoo board, Giorgio Mammoliti will quit council and go to work for an international aid organization with offices around the globe. Much to his dismay, Jungle George will end up in the Somali desert instead of on the beach in Acapulco.
· Bored with doing nothing but hanging out in the Florida sun, Melvin Douglas Lastman will run for the position of controller in West Palm Beach. Upon winning the job, he'll inquire, "What in the hell is it that a controller does?" Haven't we heard that one somewhere before?
Thankfully, the friendly LCBO salesman assured me I can get a full refund on my new crystal ball if I'm not completely satisfied. Problem is, I'll likely have to wait 12 months to get my money back.
Happy new year anyway.